Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review of A Cold and Lonely Place [20]

A Cold and Lonely Place by Sara J. Henry
ISBN 9780307718419, Crown
304 pages, February 5, 2013

Oh, what a great beginning this book has, so visual, so memorable.

Local newspaper writer and magazine freelancer Troy Chance is doing what she does best, making the people and activities of her Adirondack town, the Lake Placid/Saranac area, come alive for area readers. This time she is doing a feature on the upcoming Winter Festival and an institution at the heart of it, the building of the ice palace. That is until the men cutting the blocks of ice from Flower Lake find a horrible thing encased in the ice, the frozen body of a local resident.
"He was a funny one. He looked like everyone else. He dressed like everyone else. He partied like everyone else. But he was different."

His name was Tobin Winslow and he was the boyfriend of one of the people Troy rents a room to in her house. It is a mystery how he died, but the greatest mystery may be Tobin himself and how this son of a very wealthy Connecticut family, a young man with a Princeton education, came to live in the Lake Placid area, living in a small rental cabin, eking out a living and spending many a night in the local taverns with his buddies.

At the urging of her editor, Troy sets out to answer some of those questions and provide some closure for herself, the town and the victims own sister Win who arrives to settle her brothers affair and answer her own questions about why her brothers cut off connections with their family some 6 years ago. But it is soon apparent that not everyone is so eager to have these mysteries solved or the past dredged up.

Some time ago I reviewed Henry's first book, Learning to Swim, a critical success, winner of the 2012 Anthony Award and 2012 Agatha Award for best first novel and the 2012 Mary Higgins Clark Award, and a book I really enjoyed.
So how will the second stack up? Will it be an example of the Second Book Syndrome?
Well, it is different, but still quite good. 

The first book was a thriller, with a kidnapped child and danger and mayhem. This book, on the other hand, is not really what I would call a mystery. Perhaps I will go with how author Julia Spencer-Fleming described it in a blurb..."Set in the Adirondack winter, it is both a deeply atmospheric, seductive read and a captivating literary mystery."  A literary mystery, perhaps more literary than mystery. The real mystery of this book is who Tobin was, and almost as an aside, how he died. But for me, that was interesting enough to have me race through this book. Yes, the author throws in some suspense, a break in, a possible attack, some suspicions about Tobin's death, but they are almost secondary to the unpeeling of the layers of the various characters.

And yes, I admit it, I love the setting, in Lake Placid and surrounding area in the deep cold winter. 
I love the tension between the locals and the out of towners.
I love Troy as a character, and I love her dog and I love the reappearance from the first book of the charming young Paul. The ending did not make me totally happy, especially in regards to a personal matter for Troy that come to a head in a way that seemed oddly out of place in this story. But it was a small matter overall. 
Oh, I also loved the cover. I am shallow...what can I say?

If you read Learning to Swim and enjoyed it, you will, no doubt, be curious about this book. This is a slower book..and I do not mean that in a bad way..a more thoughtful book. Different but good.
But A Cold and Lonely Place can work as a standalone as well. If you have not yet read Learning to Swim, I would recommend you start with that one, if only to enjoy the reappearance of many of our favorite characters in this second in the series, but if you start with this one, I imagine you will want to go back and read Henry's first book as well.

My thanks to Amazon Vine and the publisher for providing a review copy.


  1. *sigh* Oh Caite! You always are such a task-master! I actually DO want to read both of them. So maybe I just will. It may depend on the audio pickings at the library.

  2. thanks. sounds like a good read ...

  3. That cover really makes me want to run in the other room, get a blanket, and heat up some hot chocolate!

  4. I have Learning to Swim and will look for this one if I enjoy it.

  5. uh oh, did you just give me a new series to read? LOL :-)

  6. I can't read this one because I'm living in a cold and lonely place right now -- too weary of winter to consider this title. Seriously, though, sounds like a goodie.

    1. Go look at the Cancun pics instead then! Lol

  7. This sounds like a great book...yet another book to add to my wishlist!


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